To "Settle" or Hold Out for Happily Ever After

By Michele Herenstein

“If one is serious about not just dating, but also marriage, then the question is not so much are you willing to settle, but what are you willing to settle on,” says David*, a 30 something year old Orthodox single who has been on many dates, but hasn’t met the “right” woman yet. David admits that there are certain things he could “settle” on, but physical attractiveness is not one of them. He says that he has looked back and wondered whether he should have pursued things further with certain girls he has dated.

Max*, who is single, observant, and lives in Manhattan, believes that there are certain ideals a person can’t give up on and every person has to decide what those things are for them. He explains that even if someone doesn’t share his likes, at least they should be appreciated. Max admits that he’s willing to compromise on one area in a big way, whether it be religion, looks, or personality. However, he adds, “People have to have the same goals and direction in life.”

Enter Dr. Isaac Herschkopf, a psychiatrist on faculty at NYU-Bellevue Medical Center, as well as being in private practice in Manhattan. He explains that if you feel as if you are settling, you will clearly be disappointed. You might second guess yourself for the rest of your life, with what should have been or could have been. “I prefer to think, and this has certainly been the case with many of the people I’ve treated, that as we grow older, we don’t necessarily have to settle, but we sometimes grow as a person and recognize that some of the things that we were initially demanding are neither reasonable or healthy demands.”

He goes on to explain that often the very first thing we feel for someone is physical/sexual attraction. “However,” says Herschkopf, “while physical attraction is the most obvious thing when you first meet someone, after you’ve been living with them for a while, physical attraction becomes the least important variable. If you care about the person and love them, they become increasingly beautiful to you, no matter what their objective rating would be.”

Herschkopf has a different perspective on love than do many singles: “You never love someone when you first meet them. To say that you meet someone and you fall in love is an insult to the concept of love. At most what happens when two people first meet is a feeling of infatuation. The key to whether or not a relationship will be successful is not whether or not you first feel infatuated, but whether or not that infatuation turns into a deeper relationship, a deeper emotion, and that’s what we call love. The amount of love you have for someone else is invariably proportional to the amount of time you’ve been together. No matter how much we think we love our spouse after having known them for a year, the feelings we have for them after 10 years, or 30, is obviously much deeper.”

“I don’t think a marriage works well if a single accepts less,” explains Herschkopf. He adds that if you find yourself getting older, you need to stop and ask yourself what you may be doing wrong. He suggests that perhaps the singles’ expectations are unreasonable. If so, the expectations should not be lowered, but changed.

“The unfortunate reality is that the lists that singles use are nonsense,” says Herschkopf. Singles think that they’re using the lists to help them meet the right person, but instead, the lists do the exact opposite; they hinder. Says Herschkopf, “Any time you’re using a list of superficial characteristics to determine who you’re going to marry, you’re doing yourself a terrible disservice.”

Herschkopf has some suggestions for singles to take to heart. “Broaden your horizons, change your perspective, remind yourself that there’s only one valid test of a relationship and that’s the test of time. Everything else can be a compromise. Don’t ask yourself where the other person is at, ask yourself where it is that WE as a couple want to be and how we can get there together.”

Special thanks to the Orthodox Caucus for allowing us to publish this article

*Names changed for Privacy.

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